This image may look like a carnival mask, but it actually shows the key structures mammals use every time they smell. The “mouth” in the picture highlights the nasal cavity of a developing mouse, which is lined with specialized odor-sensing cells (in green). When the animal breathes in, airborne odor molecules activate these cells, which then signal to the olfactory bulbs — the “eyes” in this image. This brain structure processes the input from the cells in the nasal cavity, differentiating the smell of a blooming flower from bread baking in the oven.
Michael W. Richardson
Michael W. Richardson is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York, covering topics ranging from the brain and behavior to the environment.
Popular articles on BrainFacts.org
Advancing science, improving health.
See how discoveries in the lab have improved human health.
Ask a neuroscientist your questions about the brain.
Submit a Question
Some pages on this website provide links that require Adobe Reader to view.